I didn't attend Mayor Anna Peterson's predictably-Pollyannaish "State of the City" address yesterday. I was worried that I'd suffer a massive overdose of sugary unreality.
Reading the beginning of a Statesman Journal story about the event made me feel good about my decision.
The toughest question Salem Mayor Anna Peterson faced at her State of the City Address on Wednesday was what her favorite community activity to do in the city was.
...The atmosphere in the Santiam River Room at the Salem Convention Center was decidedly relaxed. The assembly of city officials, business leaders, educators and members of the police department made for a friendly crowd.
Typical for Salem.
Pretend that things are Just Fine at City Hall. Nothing to worry about. Hey, as the Mayor likes to say, we're the Collaboration Capitol! Everybody is on the same page about How Wonderful things are going, except for a few misguided boo-birds.
I'm proud to be part of that pseudo avian species. Seeing things clearly has always struck me as being more important than seeing things through rose-colored glasses.
It'd take me too long to critique all the distortions in Peterson's State of the City talk.
For now I'll content myself with noting her decidedly-weird disavowal of a City of Salem press release about a planned new police facility, a subject I've blogged about many times. (A compendium of my posts and stories from other "media outlets" can be found here.)
On Monday, May 18, the City of Salem Facebook page posted the press release.
It described the final report of a Blue Ribbon (is there any other kind?) Task Force the Mayor appointed to consider plans for a police facility and renovations to the Civic Center after an initial $80 million proposal met with strong community resistance.
Some projected cost figures were mentioned in the release:
Total cost for a modern 100,000-square-foot public safety facility -- including elements such as purchasing land, design costs, equipment and furnishings -- would be in the neighborhood of $50 million.
The mayor’s task force has discussed a potential $50 million bond, payable over 25 years to finance the public safety facility. But the size and terms of a bond measure will be determined only after an architect makes recommendations and Salem City Council completes its review.
If voters approved a $50 million bond measure, homeowners would pay about 32-cents per $1,000 assessed value. For example, the owner of a home with an assessed value of $200,000 would pay an annual assessment of $63.35.
So there were three mentions of a $50 million police facility in three paragraphs. That number was associated with "in the neighborhood of" and "potential," indicating that the number was approximate and could change.
On the same day as the press release, May 18, the Statesman Journal published a story, "Task Force urges new Salem police station," that was based on what the City of Salem press release had said.
Download Task force urges new Salem police station
Here's what the story said about the cost of a new police facility, which included a few typos:
The total cost [for] a facility of that size, including elements such as purchasing land, design costs, equipment and furnishings would be in the ballpark of $50 million.
The task [force] discussed a $50 million bond that's payable over 25 years to finance the public safety facility.
If voters approved a $50 million bond measure, Salem taxpayers would pay approximately 32 cents per $1,000 assessed value. This means a house valued at $200,000 would pay an annual assessment of $63.35.
Sounds pretty darn accurate to me. The reporter, Brandon Southward, said "in the ballpark of $50 million." This fits with the more-or-less tone of the press release in regards to that cost figure.
But in her State of the City address, the Mayor had a minor hissy-fit. (I say minor, having personally observed and heard about from others her major hissy-fits.)
In a portion of the speech dealing with the police facility, Mayor Peterson said:
The location and price are not known yet, so I caution you to not see the price quoted in the media as "the final price." It was only an early estimate.
The price "quoted in the media" came from the City of Salem's own press release, which wasn't exactly ancient history. How can the Mayor call the $50 million cost estimate publicized by City staff on Monday, May 18 an "early estimate" just two days later on May 20?
That $50 million number in the press release obviously didn't pop up out of the blue.
A City staffer must have talked with someone knowledgeable on the Blue Ribbon Task Force before writing the press release, and/or conferred with other City employees working on this project.
So it's strange that the Mayor would incorrectly say that the media, a.k.a. the Statesman Journal, had quoted the $50 million as "the final price." Nothing in the press release or newspaper story implied this -- that the $50 million was set in stone.
Something is happening here. Like Bob Dylan's Mister Jones, I don't know what it is. I've just got some reasonable guesses.
If the Mayor didn't like $50 million being cited as the possible cost for a new police facility, this means that she either anticipates the actual cost being considerably higher or lower. Thus she wants to disavow the press release number now in anticipation of when the higher or lower number comes to be.
Now, Salem Community Vision has been pressing for a $30 million police facility, along with $20 million in seismic retrofitting and other renovations to City Hall and the Library.
Mayor Peterson isn't fond, to put it mildly, of how successful Salem Community Vision has been in pointing out the flaws in her original $80 million proposal -- since there is good reason to believe that both a new police facility and Civic Center retrofitting/renovations can be done for $50 million.
It's unlikely, then, that the Mayor is anticipating that the final cost of a new police facility will be markedly less than $50 million. This would put her on the same side as Salem Community Vison, which is difficult to believe.
More likely is that Mayor Peterson wants to leave the door open to the final cost of a new police facility being more than $50 million.
Listening to her remarks at the final Blue Ribbon Task Force meeting, it was clear that the Mayor is still enamored of building a police facility close to the Civic Center, and maybe even on the original Mirror Pond site that is part of the Civic Center.
Sure, this would go against several recommendations of the Task Force, including not building on the Civic Center campus and not using expensive underground or elevated parking for a new police facility.
But since building a police facility adjacent to or on the Civic Center campus would likely raise the cost above $50 million, I'm suspecting that this is the most likely reason Mayor Peterson objected to the City of Salem's own press release that mentioned this figure.
The police facility saga has had lots of twists and turns over the past years. I'm sure more are to come. Stay tuned...